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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: July 18, 2013

| Thursday, July 18, 2013, 1:06 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: OK, before we get started, I'd like to solicit any ill wishes you might suggest for whoever just bumped the side-view mirror of my car parked in front of Starbucks on Sixth Street, then took off.

I'll start the bidding at being forced to watch, Clockwork Orange-style, 24 straight hours of NBA traveling highlights.

Away we go ...

Comment from BigNick: I am not seeing much out there as far as rumors of the upcoming trade deadline. The only real name that has stood out to me was Morales. But im not sure of his everyday RF capabilities. And, i would not sell the farm for him. Any names floating out there that you like?

Dejan Kovacevic: As ever, I'll stick to names that have been connected to the Pirates through real reporting of real inquiries but, no, there isn't much there that excites. The most intriguing name is Justin Morneau because of who he was 6-7 years ago, but the current Morneau is a nominal upgrade on Garrett Jones at best, minus being able to play right field.

It's been good to hear that the Pirates have expanded horizons beyond right field, as first base clearly has become the bigger issue. Not just because Jose Tabata has hit OK, but because Jones and Gaby Sanchez aren't getting it done at a position where offense isn't optional. I'd welcome seeing more pursuit of first base than right field right to the end, actually.

But I'll caution again: People waiting for this uber-deal to come along and blow everyone away, it takes two, and the Pirates' scope of positional needs isn't that broad. Almost has to be a right fielder or first baseman as a starter, plus the voluminous bench needs.

Comment From Dave: Dejan, I know you have been quite critical about the Pirates drafts and development under the current administration. My question is why are you not very critical of the drafts and player development of the Penguins under the Shero administration. With the exception of slam dunk draft choice of Staal the Pens really haven't had any young impact talent come through the farm system in recent year. The lack of talent isn't just showing for the Pens, but also for the teams that have traded with Shero.

Dejan Kovacevic: Always enjoy questions/charges that can be easily refuted by a recent column. Sounds like you've missed a few of mine on that topic, Dave, this one ran just last month.

Comment From Derek D: With the zone blocking that the Steelers are going to incorporate, who do you feel would have the edge at running back. Isn't zone blocking used for quicker backs? Thanks!

Dejan Kovacevic: The default edge will go to Le'Veon Bell regardless of the scheme, but the scheme won't hurt him. The Steelers' aim is to be able to run between the tackles and diminish the impact of an edge rush against Ben Roethlisberger. Bell is plenty capable of that. He did it for a living at Michigan State. But so are Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman in their own ways.

Look, someone will emerge from Latrobe as the starting running back, but it's probably going to get overblown. Unless it's Bell, I'd be stunned if someone were to emerge even as a 20-carry guy. He's too young, Mike Tomlin doesn't know to trust him yet with ball security, and the other two clearly lapsed out of favor.

Comment From Nate83: I know Grilli and Melancon are untouchable but with Black, Welker and other playing so well is there any chance that Morris or Wilson would be part of any trade to bring in a bat. Wilson could be interesting to some teams because of his background as a starter.

Dejan Kovacevic: You won't see guys off the major-league roster being sent out in trades. That not only doesn't make sense for a contender, but it also isn't necessary with rental-type moves.

And honestly, for all the discussion about top prospects, those guys don't have to go to get these types of players, either. It's mostly about money and/or fit.

Comment From Tom: A little different question: Was at the Pirates/Mets game at PNC last Friday. Where I was sitting I was looking over at the press box area where the writers sit and 2 questions came to mind: First, besides the beat writers...who else is in that box (I think I counted 13 people that night) and do guys talk to each other and “compare notes” on things? Everyone seemed to just be focused on the game and didn't really see people talking to each other. Thanks, Dejan for a little insight.

Dejan Kovacevic: If you're referring solely to PNC Park's press box, you've got about 12-15 professional writers there, plus the visiting contingent that varies from one to seven (New York, Philly), as well as the official scorer, some observers from TV/radio stations (far more plentiful now than in years past) and a handful of credentialed bloggers.

As for comparing notes, I'm curious as to why you'd expect to see that. Reporting is a competitive business. Unless you're comparing notes with another person from your own outlet, there wouldn't be sharing of any kind.

Comment From The Real Deal: This talk of NHL schedules, and the delays in release due to the Olympics, has me looking forward to Olympic hockey. I'm assuming you will be covering the Olympics again this time around. Will you be there to focus on mainly hockey and the Pens that are participating, or more on the games in general as you did in London?

Dejan Kovacevic: We're still a ways off from anything official related to Sochi. In the past, I've always stressed local athletes while also branching out to do the broader topics. In Vancouver, for example, I covered Lindsey Vonn, Apolo Anton Ohno and Shawn White, plus the U.S. women's hockey team because we had a local (Brianne McLaughlin) in that, in addition to being at every hockey game in which one of the Penguins was involved.

The answer is that you try to do both, but you absolutely don't go over there limiting yourself to the hockey tournament. Our readership really grows in terms of women during the Olympics, and so must the scope of the coverage.

Comment From Jerry: Dejan, Are you covering tomorrow's Riverhounds game against Wigan?

Dejan Kovacevic: I will be there. See today's blog for a really neat backdrop regarding Manchester United.

Comment From Steel City G-Man: Do you think Neal Huntington has done a few years of on the job training and finally learned how to be a GM or is he just watching lightning get caught in a bottle this year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Hate to keep dishing off to the blog, but I also want to be respectful of readers who might already have read that.

Short version: A lot of changes took place last fall. A ton, actually, mostly as the result of Bob Nutting's top-to-bottom investigation and resulting directives. I have no doubt the changes have paid off, including in the short term.

Again, see the blog for the whole thing.

Comment From Daquido Bazzini: Dejan....Serious question....Would Greg Polanco be a bit more expendable in a trade to Neal Huntington because of his whistle blowing in regards to Hoka Hey duties last winter?

Dejan Kovacevic: Polanco didn't do any whistle-blowing. That was done by many, many others. All Polanco did was answer one question honestly.

Comment From Frank: Why isn't the media discussing Chris Davis obvious steroid use? Did we learn absolutely nothing from the steroid era? If you can describe a performance as “magical,” what you mean to say is “PED fueled.”

Dejan Kovacevic: Care to throw out the names of any current Pirates that cavalierly? Or is just OK when discussing players on other teams?

Comment From Bernard: Heading into training camp, what are your impressions of the OL given the relative inexperience there?

Dejan Kovacevic: Love the interior, dreading the exterior but open to being convinced otherwise. With Ramon Foster, Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro, you could be set at the interior for years to come. But Marcus Gilbert at LT is a huge variable, and I'm not so sure Mike Adams at RT is any less so.

If it all clicks, wonderful. The talent certainly is there. But tackles have the unenviable job of preserving the QB's life, and I haven't seen nearly enough of Gilbert (at LT, anyway) or Adams to feel good about either.

Comment From Daquido Bazzini: May your side-view mirror attacker be forced to listen (by head phones) to Michael Bolton's Greatest hits while spending a day and a half mowing lawns on a hot day in Butler!

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes. That and the 24 hours of NBA traveling highlights, and we're at least off to a start.

Maybe those highlights could be narrated by Chris Berman, too.

Comment From Scott Richards: Dejan, I agree that speculation is terrible when reading trade rumors for Pirates. Do you know a certain person or website that gives more accurate accounts of trade discussion with Pirates?

Dejan Kovacevic: Start here: The word “rumors” is pretty much a non-starter for me.

What you should be looking for are actual reports of actual talks or inquiries. Those matter. Those mean that at least the first vital step of making a trade has occurred.

Best national guys are Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of Fox. All they do — and I mean all they do, if you know either guy — is stay in touch with baseball executives. But there are others, too.

In contrast, when you see something akin to ESPN's purely hypothetical Giancarlo Stanton blog entry last month, one that an astounding number of people took to be a “trade rumor,” whatever that even is, that's pretty deflating. There was nothing in there. Nothing. Zero. It was a what-if story. But people think because they see the words “Pirates” and “Stanton” together in an ESPN story, that's a “rumor.”


But then, it's that time of year, and the appetite for this stuff is voracious, to say the least.

Comment From Chris Tregar: At this point in the season, would you bring up Tony Sanchez and send down Micheal McKenry. Back up catcher is one spot that is horrendous for the Pirates right now. Your thoughts?

Dejan Kovacevic: I'd be giving it very strong thought if I'm the Pirates, yes. Sanchez has already had his taste of the majors (a good one, at that), and McKenry is just dying out there. The notion that McKenry knows the pitching staff is accurate, but the idea that it should keep him on the roster is silly. Sanchez is a bright kid who himself has handled a lot of these pitchers.

That said, I don't think you'll see a change. There's six weeks left until September callups.

Comment From Pat: Why is the nhl so undecided when the shcedule comes out? Just seems like another example of the nhl messing something up that is really so simple, when it is ready announce it!

Dejan Kovacevic: The people running the NHL aren't very good at what they do.

Comment From Hockey man: Read story from prospect camp concerning Ulf Samuelson's son. Will he ever make it to Pittsburgh with all the other top picks in the system?

Dejan Kovacevic: The next person I hear expressing hope for Philip Samuelsson at that level will be the first. His game doesn't compare to his father's, and neither does his skating. Tough road ahead.

Comment From PirateApologist: DK, today on the blog , you mentioned that Nutting has never lied to you. Without mentioning names, of course, how do you maintain relations with a player/team executive that has obviously lied to you. Do you say something to them off the record?

Dejan Kovacevic: For the most part, when someone has verifiably lied, that changes things. That would be true for most reporters, and I'm not an exception. In the Pirates' case, that stuff has been thoroughly documented.

Comment From PirateApologist: No matter what type of trade the Pirates make, doesn't it make sense to try to make it sooner rather than later due to the fact that they are going to be up against the Reds, Nats, and Cards in the next two weeks?

Dejan Kovacevic: The Cardinals' five-games-in-four-days series leads right into the deadline. If I'm the Pirates, I'm very much taking that into consideration regarding trade timing. You're talking about potentially an enormous swing in the Central standings.

Dejan Kovacevic: I do believe that it's Tampa Bay Lightning time. Short Qs, shorter As ...

Comment From Bobby: How far away do you think outfielders like Polanco and Bell are to making to Pittsburgh, provided they ever make it?

Dejan Kovacevic: Polanco two years, Bell three or four.

Comment From Guest: Will Maurkice Pouncey be a distraction once traning camp begins?

Dejan Kovacevic: Absolutely. At least on the first day at Latrobe. He'll be the main attraction. If he and the Steelers were smart about this, they might try a preemptive strike of some sort and get that out of the way beforehand.

Comment From Dom: I enjoyed Joe Starkey's piece on Bob Nutting. In my experience, the majority of the blame Nutting gets is from fans who think he is profiting off the team. Is there any reason to believe this complaint is justified?

Dejan Kovacevic: None. Zero.

Sometimes, people get all pumped up over something, then can't let it go no matter the evidence to the contrary that presents itself. That's happened with Nutting, and I dare say it happened with the David Wright nonsense last weekend, too.

Comment From BK: Hey Dejan, Penguins people are again talking up Jayson Megna and now Adam Payerl's name is being mentioned. Are these guys serious candidates for the roster?

Dejan Kovacevic: There are no forward prospects at the Penguins' development camp. None.

Comment From Naterosboro: Would would you target as the bench upgrade for the Pirates?

Dejan Kovacevic: Yes.

Comment From The Real Deal: Which Bucco can this team least afford to lose to injury?

Dejan Kovacevic: Starling Marte.

Comment From Charlie Mortons dog: What arent the pirates telling us about wandy rodriguez's injury?

Dejan Kovacevic: They're telling you it's a “strained forearm.” But when Wandy walked off the mound that night and looked to the dugout, he pointed directly to his elbow.

Forearm almost always equals elbow in baseball.

Comment From Charlie Mortons dog: More critical to the steelers success: the offensive line or the linebackers?

Dejan Kovacevic: Absolutely the offensive line. The Steelers' defense had flaws last season, but it was still ranked No. 1. It's got room to fall back, theoretically. If the O-line is a bust, all bets are off.

Comment From Charlie Mortons dog: If u were offered a column in the winnipeg free press, would u take it?

Dejan Kovacevic: I will never leave Pittsburgh. Not for any job anywhere. I had one theoretical move I ever could have made, and it's already been made.

Comment From Daquido Bazzini: Being that the Steelers are $4 mil under the cap.....Might we see them add some depth in the next couple weeks?

Dejan Kovacevic: Another receiver wouldn't surprise me. I just can't get into my head Plaxico Burress as the No. 3 guy.

Comment From Clint: With the limited options the Pens have for their bottom 6 lines, is this the year Dustin Jeffrey either puts up or ships out?

Dejan Kovacevic: Thought that two years ago. More than anything, they want to give his knee another chance and see if he can regain his first step.

Comment From Rusty: Dont you think tickets to RiverHounds/Wigan are too expensive?

Dejan Kovacevic: You have to pay the bills. A club like Wigan doesn't pass through every year, and there are only 4,000 tickets. But yeah, I can see $25-plus for a friendly as being high. Won't argue that.

Comment From Battleship: When does Niskanen get traded?

Dejan Kovacevic: Before the season, for sure. Impossible to imagine him being back, given the cap and the current defense alignment of the top four. If Simon Despres is fifth, you don't want Matt Niskanen being sixth. Have to get bigger, tougher with that slot.

Comment From BK: Not even Kuhnhackl?

Dejan Kovacevic: I don't see it. Looks like a spare part.

Comment From John: who do you see breaking out/improving the most in the Pirates lineup the 2nd half?

Dejan Kovacevic: Andrew McCutchen. He's got an eruption in him that we haven't seen yet. I'll put Neil Walker right behind.

More on this in the Friday column, by the way.

Comment From Mikey: Steelers have the 4th least arrests in the NFL in recent history, are we too hard on them?

Dejan Kovacevic: Don't know how you're qualifying recent. I'd see recent as including a lot of stupid stuff in the past two years alone.

Dejan Kovacevic: Last one ...

Comment From Guest: Being that the second half is underway we should all start a new Twitter hashtag: #CollaspeWatch

Dejan Kovacevic: Only here.

NOTE: Dejan's chat will move to Fridays beginning July 26.

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